Microsoft Zune HD vs Apple iPod touch 3G, Feature Comparison

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
By OP Editor

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After efforts reaching back to 2004, Microsoft’s market share in the portable media player remains at a negligible 1%. The Zune HD is Microsoft’s latest entrant. This time, Microsoft is touting Zune HD’s hardware features. So how does the features actually stack up to Apple’s iPod? More specifically, how does the Zune HD compare to the iPod touch 3G (late 2009 model)?

Microsoft Zune HD vs Apple iPod touch 3G 2009

Let’s get ready to rumble. Microsoft Zune HD vs Apple iPod touch late 2009 model. Yes it looks like a challenger, but do you have all the facts? Keep in mind that Zune HD is U.S. only due to various reasons, including the fact that its “HD” radio is a proprietary system that is U.S. only.

Note the Apple iPod touch late 2009 model is commonly known as the iPod touch 3G, as in third generation, or 3rd gen, not referring to the mobile telecommunications 3G that is used in the iPhone.

Microsoft Zune HD Background

The Zune HD is Microsoft’s latest attempt at following Apple’s footsteps.

After attempting to license its restrictive Microsoft DRM / platform / software tax unsuccessfully for few years, MS dropped its Microsoft “Play for Sure” DRM technology, support, and partners in 2006, then proceeded to try to imitate Apple’s iPod business model in the portable music player market.

The Microsoft copying effort resulted in original Zune released in 2006, and other versions of Zunes since then. The Zune line is incompatible with Microsoft’s previous “Play for Sure” DRM platform. Instead, another Microsoft DRM scheme was created for the Zune.

The Zune line, similar to the abandoned Microsoft “Play for Sure” platform, has been an utter market failure so far. Users reported lack of features and usability problems. After 3 years in the market, Microsoft Zune music players has only 1% market share, compared to Apple’s 73.8% market share (market share data referenced at Apple’s new iPod event last week).

Exterior

Comparing size, weight, and screen of Zune HD and Apple iPod touch 3G


  Zune HD iPod touch 3G
Height 102.1 mm 110 mm
Width 52.7 mm 61.8 mm
Depth 8.9 mm 8.5 mm
Screen Size 3.2" 3.5"
Screen Pixels 272×480 320×480
Weight 2.6 ounces 4.05 ounces
Display in dark room OLED LCD
Display in sunlight OLED LCD

Zune HD’s display is not HD resolution. In fact, it’s smaller than the display in iPod touch, by both image size and pixel count. Apple’s iPod touch has 15% more pixels and 25% larger screen area than the Zune HD.

Zune HD weights less due to having a smaller screen. However the Zune HD is marginally thicker than iPod touch.

So how’s the most advertised feature, the OLED (Organic light-emitting diode) display?

Most reviews state that under subdued lightening, Zune HD OLED display looks great.
Zune HD OLED screen under subdued lightening, image from engadget

However, Zune HD’s OLED display has poor usability outside under sun.
Zune HD OLED display performance outside under the sun, image from engadget

Zune HD display compared to Apple iPod touch display.
Microsoft Zune HD OLED display comparison with Apple iPod touch display

LOL. Some people think those are “fanboy” photos. Too bad they are blind to the obvious.

Photo credit (as already described in the mouse over image ALT text)
- First two photos: Engadget, as shown by the 22 pt unobscured engadget watermark (30 pt when enlarged).
- Third photo: Chicago Sun Times

There are also some concerns about the longevity of OLED too, as organic compounds in OLED are expected to have a shorter life expectancy than LCD.

So for image quality, OLED seems to have the upper hand when used in a dark place, but doesn’t perform as well outdoors under the sun. But would it last? Hope it won’t be a repeat of the Microsoft Xbox Red Ring of Death.

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Tags: Analysis, Apple, iPod, Microsoft, Music

9 Responses to “Microsoft Zune HD vs Apple iPod touch 3G, Feature Comparison”

  1. usb

    [This comment might be heavily biased and has no supporting facts:] This is a heavily biased review. I mean for the anti-spam word I had to type in ‘i heart mac’. Many of the facts are plain out incorrect (e.g. the tegra section), and makes many assumptions that the ipod touch ‘might’ someday get (e.g. wireless n connectivity). Also I can’t believe you gave the Zune limited podcast support. The Zune software and player categorizes and plays podcasts just as good or better than the ipod touch and itunes does. (You can subscribe and unsubscribe to podcasts on the go).

    1
    • 1) Heavily biased?

      Yes the material is different than Microsoft promotional material, but the article contains relevant facts that MS marketing team would likely not provide, such as actual OLED usability in real life.

      FYI, Reviewers from New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, Associated Press have a similar opinion.
      http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/09/09/17/review_roundup_zune_hd_plays_catchup_to_ipod_touch.html

      —————-
      2) Captcha?

      You can refresh the page for a different captcha.

      —————-
      3) Tegra Processor vs Cortex Processor

      Zune HD Tegra Processor
      The NVIDIA Tegra APX2600 processor.
      The APX2600 features a ARM11 600 MHz core.
      http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Microsoft-Zune-HD/1170/3

      iPod touch
      Cortex processor
      http://www.geardiary.com/2009/06/19/iphone-3g-s-dissected-833-mhz-processor-720p-video-recording-capable/

      The information on the Tegra processor is accurate. Look up ARM11 and Cortex and you’ll see which one is ARMv6 and which one is ARMv7.

      ARM architecture
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture

      —————-
      4) Wireless-N capable chip in iPod touch

      Yes, while the assumption is stated, the table cell for iPod touch is NOT colored green to be in its favor. All tables are accurate as of device launch date September 15, 2009.

      Why it’s likely to happen:
      a. In the early days of N chips, Apple has unlocked N capabilities for certain laptops without N enabled.
      b. Apple recently unlocked the hidden bluethooth receivers from previous generation iPod touch.

      —————-
      5) Podcast?

      The article did not mention podcast SUPPORT, but podcast availability from the native media store. iTunes is the largest provider of music in the U.S. How large? iTunes sells more music than Walmart or Amazon. Same with podcasts. Microsoft’s Zune marketplace has a very limited number compared with iTunes.

      FYI, you know why they are call podcasts? Hint, it has something to do with “pod” in “iPod.”

      1.1
  2. SomeGuy

    Well the Zune really has 2 ARM11 cores so that’s one thing that makes it different from the past and recent Ipod touches… I don’t know where you got your source for how much ram the Zune HD has but I couldn’t find any info on the amount of ram it has anywhere I looked… I would assume the the Zune HD has 256mb of DDR1 ram to match it’s 2 ARM11 cores but that’s only my own speculation… Judging by PCs the 2 core set up in the ZUNE HD could help it multi-task better if these cores work similar to how processor cores work in PCs which I assume they do…

    Sources on Zunes multi-core ARM11 core below…
    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/nvidia-tegra-zune-hd-ipod,8469.html
    http://pcworld.about.com/od/mp3players1/Zune-HD-Specs-Including-Tegra.htm

    2
    • OP Editor

      1) Multiple cores? Interesting… Thanks. Keep in mind those 2 articles seem to be reworded versions of press releases, and MS did distribute wrong information in some of the press releases. Doesn’t seem to be any mention in final, official documentation though.

      The actual hardware breakdown mentioned: “The APX2600 features a ARM11 600 MHz core”
      http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Microsoft-Zune-HD/1170/3
      Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.

      However, no matter how many cores zune zd might have, one thing is certain: Spec does not equal usability when it comes to MS products.

      Why? Look at app launch benchmarks. If Zune HD has better capabilities, then why does it take such a long time to launch its apps?

      Zune HD (third generation zune)
      Calculator 8-10 seconds
      weather 8-10 seconds

      iPod touch (first gen, second gen, third gen)
      Calculator 1 seconds
      weather 1-2 seconds

      That doesn’t include the extra time it takes to navigate the Zune’s limited interface. As of now, with Zune, you have to scroll below the fold, click on something to access the app list, so that adds another 2 seconds or so to launching a Zune app.

      So in summary, it may or may not have the number of cores claimed, but if it takes 10 seconds to open a basic app (when iPod touch does it in 1 second), does it matter how many cores zune hd has?

      2) ZuneHD RAM

      “1 gigabit Hynix Mobile DDR SDRAM”
      http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Microsoft-Zune-HD/1170/1
      1 gigabit = 128MB (approximate)

      2.1
  3. Jay Kresge

    I just wanted to clarify some information in regards to Tegra vs. Cortex.

    While Cortex is based on a newer ARM architecture, Tegra is a more powerful and efficient chip. The main CPU of the Cortex is slightly faster than the main CPU in Tegra, but as a whole, Tegra is significantly more powerful.

    However, keep this in mind. Who is the primary maker of the Cortex chip? Samsung. And what chip has Samsung signed on to use for it’s higher end smartphones for 2010? Tegra. Why would they do this when it’s cheaper to use an in-house chip? Because the Tegra is more powerful overall.

    And for what it’s worth, my wife’s iPhone 3G (which doesn’t use the Cortex chip, but the older chip) is still faster than my Zune HD is many ways. Sometimes, it’s just the software that makes the device :)

    3
    • OP Editor

      Well, the hardware comparison is debatable.

      However, you are right about the overall performance.

      End users don’t directly interact with hardware. They interact with devices through a software layer (or a few layers). As mentioned before, when it comes to the whole package, the benchmarks speak for themselves.

      Yup, even the first generation iPhone / iPod touch opens comparable apps much faster than the third generation zune.

      In addition, on gaming performance:
      “NVIDIA’s own demonstrations of Tegra’s ARM11/integrated graphics show it achieving 35 fps in Quake III. The same software running on Pandora’s Coretex-A8 with SGX GPU core achieves 40-60 fps.”
      http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2009/09/14/from-oled-to-tegra-five-myths-of-the-zune-hd/

      3.1
  4. Donatom3

    OP,

    You do realize that Tegra was running quake at twice the resolution of the iphone with antialiasing and filters on. That ill informed article you posted makes no mention of that part for obvious reasons. Also that same person who bashes OLED in that article you quoted, was also gushing over the rumors that the iPhone 3GS was supposedly getting an OLED screen about 4 months ago. I’ve seen the two in person. The only problem viewing the OLED is in direct sunlight. Also if you actually turn the brightness up on the Zune it’s much more viewable in direct sunlight. Any viewing problems I’ve seen were more because of reflections of the glass itself and not screen.

    4
    • OP Editor

      Got a source for the frame rate info?

      Still doesn’t explain why certain apps takes 10 times as long to launch on what some think is the “superior” chip than the leader in a competitive market.

      “The only problem viewing the OLED is in direct sunlight.” Yes you said it.

      4.1
  5. iKevin

    Op Editor is exactly right. Zune HD is ALREADY biased on its name. HD, generally means that the screen has High Definition, is actually HD audio. Also, I have both of them, Zune HD and iPod touch 3G 32GB. It’s exactly right- the OLED display sucks when you are outside under the sunlight. The video too- iPod touch had much higher res display and color display.

    Look Zuners(ROFL), youguys just don’t know about it. Podcast? from iPOD. It’s just another iPod nano with the multi-touch screen. Microsoft marketing just sucks(not MarketPlace), it’s only available in the US, which the world wouldn’t even know what ZUNE is, while the iPods are selling over 70 countries worldwide.

    5

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